Happy November to all my fabulous Dragon Friends. Welcome to my introductory Befriending Dragons newsletter!
Money Un-Tabooed Podcast – Financial Impact of Harassment
Happy November to all my fabulous Dragon Friends. Welcome to my introductory Befriending Dragons newsletter!
Money Un-Tabooed Podcast – Financial Impact of Harassment
In the mornings I search my closet to find the perfect outfit that shows I’m technical enough, I’m smart enough, I fit in. One day I wear a skirt, and my manager can’t seem to process it, I have gone outside his expectations. He flips to the script of “this is a woman, not a skilled computer expert who knows more about her area of expertise than almost anyone else in the world.” He can’t hold “woman” and “good at technical stuff” in his brain at the same time. His obviously confused comments about how nice I look deflate me all day, and that’s the last time I wear a skirt to work. Another day my manager comments that it’s great that I’ve brought some women candidates to interview for the open position on our team, but that we won’t lower the bar for them. As if the bar isn’t already shaped like a white man, with false proxies that exclude so many qualified people. When he finds out a coworker made disgusting, sexually explicit comments to me I overhear him say to a coworker that the bully can’t be blamed since he thought I had picked up the coworker I was walking with in a nearby bar. I move to a team that rarely interacts with customers, a team where I have no chance of encountering my old teammates. They have much more of an casual clothing vibe. When I wear my existing wardrobe, clothes from boutique stores, I get puzzled comments asking where am I going after work, is it someplace fancy? One of the few other women on the team comes over to tell me she’s glad I continue to dress up because it makes her feel less out of place when she wears similar clothes. What I think is “Why can’t I ever get it, ME, right?” Why can’t I fit in? Why are my dragon scales always too shiny or not shiny enough? Why is my roar always silenced? When did I lose my voice, when did I start spending so much emotional energy to walk a fine line between likable and competent? When did I give in to the bullies?
It was years before I realized my path to belonging & success became very narrow when I reported the worst bully, a sexual harasser, to my manager. The manager talked me out of reporting to HR. He encouraged me to silence myself, to keep quiet, all to keep my chance at a promotion. What I heard is that my voice doesn’t matter, or even worse my voice is destructive to my career. I didn’t realize then that my chance at a promotion was gone the moment I spoke up about the harasser, the bully, even in the privacy of one sympathetic person’s office. It was clear the so-called “brilliant jerk” who harassed me was just too valuable to the team, and I was not valuable enough. Instead of insisting I was as valuable, actually even more valuable because I wasn’t a bully, I took my dragon roar and internalized it as a silent scream. I looked around at the sea of men I worked with and saw what others thought tech looked like – not me. I tried to muffle my inner shrieks and focus on creating success by changing myself, ignoring my own brilliance and aptitude for the job. I just knew if I could make myself even more “one of the guys,” if I could suppress the “bad” aspects of my femininity, I could “win.” I could manage my way out of this by tightly controlling everything – myself, my voice, my manager, my coworkers, how much of myself I shared with my boyfriend. Only I couldn’t. I didn’t. The more I silenced myself, the more I changed my dragon roar into a silent scream, the more I lost myself.
I imagined myself as a solitary dragon, alone in my safe cave. As long as I kept people at a distance I could survive. I never even considered that I deserved to thrive instead. I nursed my internal wounds, mostly by minimizing and ignoring them. I imagined my loneliness as peaceful solitude. I hoarded my energy, my thoughts, my feelings. I told myself I was in control, I was exercising my power. I shape-shifted into a shadow of myself, a caricature. I closed all the gates around me to keep the bad things away, ignoring that I also kept the good things away. Like so many trauma victims, I internalized the bully’s actions as partially my own fault. I thought I could, must, change myself to avoid future bullies.
But that’s not the way the world works. Instead of looking at myself as a scary dragon, I can choose to see myself as a free agent in the world, a friendly dragon who can fly where I want, when I want, how I want. I know there’s the reality of the white patriarchy, a system that builds success bars shaped like a narrow subset of cishet white men. Because of my own privileges as a white-presenting woman with one parent who graduated from college, because of the perseverance and grit and pure luck that let me slide through the edges of the white patriarchy and accumulate some wealth, I have the freedom to put myself in another part of the world, a part where I can thrive. My dragon scales are just fine the way they are, and I choose how much, what kind of, light to shine on them, on myself. I can befriend this bully culture dragon, I can stop internalizing it and stop trying to fix myself. I can make my experience a friendly dragon. That jerk who bullied me, who was found guilty of sexually harassing me when I finally reported him to HR, doesn’t define me. I don’t have to change myself, I don’t have to become invisible and silent to people like him and the people who excuse his behavior. He behaved very badly, he committed verbal violence. The system at work tried to find the balance of action so that neither of us would sue or speak out too much. But they misjudged. I did speak out. I reclaimed my voice. I started to speak out about my experience, at first quietly in small groups. Then from a stage. Then directly to my new team. Then loudly for the world to hear. I left Microsoft without signing their confidentiality agreement, without letting them steal my voice once again in return for a few month’s pay.
I reclaimed my roar and ended my internal screaming. I befriended that dragon. I reclaimed my voice and my feminine side. I belong because I decide what that means for me. I choose to step away from patriarchy, the quest for perfection, whiteness, hierarchy, and conformity. I choose thrival, self-care, and relationship-based work.
I see myself as a beautiful, free, contradictory, powerful, wise, and confident dragon with a loud roar. I am ready to take on the world, to speak truth to power. I create my own path. I journey with women, we reclaim our voices, we move on to new, bigger lives after a bully tries to make us small. We nurture new paths, new cultures, new open gates where we can be ourselves, create success, and generate a sense of belonging in our cultures. We ROAR!
I have so many thoughts and ideas about where my passion will lead me next. I haven’t yet settled on any one thing for a new career, so I went back to the basics. Listen. Listen to my community. I envision my community as marginalized people in tech. So I have started a meetup group where we can get together and talk. Where we can listen to each other. Where we help each other. Join me and let’s go on this journey to our futures together.
A gathering place for people forging new paths after harassment at work.
This is a safe space – no hate speech, bullying, harassment, or discrimination is tolerated. We value input from a variety of identities and will center the views, needs, and decisions of those who are not cishet white men.
I’m a 50 year old white woman leaving the tech world. As I talk about the harassment, bullying, and discrimination I’ve faced over the years other women open up about their own experiences. So many of us have no place to talk to others with the same experiences. Let’s share our stories, our growth, our pain and joy. This is a place to talk about surviving and thriving, about careers, family, friends, life, work, play, and about disrupting the white patriarchy to nurture a new way of doing things.
Today is my last official day at Microsoft.
I no longer feel safe, comfortable, or valued working in tech. Going forward I’ll be working to actively disrupt tech culture and systems to reduce harassment and discrimination. Keep an eye on #Words4Justice. 😊
Presented at SQL Saturday Oregon on October 24, 2015
We’re good people. As good people we don’t want to think we do things that have negative consequences for others. But sometimes our subconscious can fool us. What we intend isn’t always what happens. We think we’re making a totally rational decision based on our conscious values – but subtle, unconscious bias creeps in. Yes, even for good people. For 20+ years folks at Harvard have been using something called the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to help us identify our biases.
Take this IAT on gender and career – the results may surprise you: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/user/agg/blindspot/tablet.htm
Watch Alan Alda take the test, it will give you a feel for how it works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RSVz6VEybk
The human brain works with patterns and categories. It’s how we make it through the day. We are bombarded with 100s of thousands of data points every day – we can’t possibly think through each one every time. We unconsciously assign data points, including our perception of people, into buckets. Those buckets have values and characteristics assigned to them that may or may not reflect the individual person we put in that bucket.
This automatic assignment is called intuitive thinking or system 1 thinking. It’s easy and takes little effort. It serves us well and lets us take on many tasks every day. However, it also sometimes leads us down the path of thinking we’ve chosen the “best” person when we’re really hired someone who meets some set of assumptions.
Sometimes we use slow thinking, or system 2 thinking. It’s rarely a conscious decision, something just makes us take some extra time and we usually don’t even realize it. That’s when we stop to question what we’re doing – maybe we adjust which categories we put someone in or we adjust the category or the values and judgments associated with it. We’re good people but system 2 thinking is tiring and we just can’t do it all the time.
Why does diversity matter at work? Personally, when we’re on a diverse team we tend to have higher personal and job satisfaction. Diverse teams are interesting and we often learn more. People who don’t feel like they’re the “only one” of something (gender, sexual orientation, race, introvert/extravert, etc.) relax, contribute more, and are more productive. And study after study shows that more diverse teams lead to better products and a better bottom line.
Companies with women on their boards have higher ROIs, more diverse companies tend to perform above average, and let’s face it – we don’t have enough STEM graduates to fill needed jobs if we don’t encourage a more diverse group of people to enter the field.
But we’re good people and we don’t make these snap judgments. We are rational and we always know why we made a decision. Or do we?
Optical illusions fool us all the time. Even knowing those lines are all the same length, did you have to measure them just to be sure? The same thing happens in our interactions with people. What’s the first thing that comes to mind for single parent, introvert, doctor, CEO, or programmer? That first thing hints at your categories – the categories built up by a lifetime of media saturation filled with type-cast actors.
Back to the science of bias. Let’s think about resumes. In one study, resumes were handed out to academics who were asked to rate the job candidates for competency, hireability, mentoring, and suggested salary. Some resumes were for John and some for Jennifer. Professors of all genders rated Jennifer 25% less competent and less likely to be hired. They rated John worth about $4000 more. When asked why they gave ratings their justifications sounded rational but…. 4 industry publications was awesome for John and 4 was just not enough for Jennifer. They are good people but they (we!) are at the mercy of their subconscious and years of societal conditioning.
We’re good people so what do we do?
Take the IATs – there are many, take at least a couple and understand your unexpected biases. Talk about this with others so we all become comfortable talking about our subtle biases. Work to consciously update your mental categories – seek out images and reminders of people who are different and successful. Now that you know your own categories a bit better, be more mindful about switching to system 2 thinking. Reach out to one person and mentor them. Spend time with someone who makes you uncomfortable. Pay attention to the “firsts” (the first autistic character on Sesame Street, the first black President, the first whatever) and see if that helps you update your mental categories.
Increase the pipeline. Participate in groups that help kids learn to code. Recruit beyond your normal network, post jobs on diversity sites, and consider non-traditional backgrounds. Join diverse groups that don’t match your own diversity.
Be careful with words. Is someone bossy or exhibiting leadership? Is someone aggressive or a go-getter? Are they emotional or passionate. You may be surprised how you assign different words for the same behavior in unexpected ways.
When you post a job, only list something as “required” if it truly is. Women for example tend to only apply if they meet almost all the requirements, men tend to apply if they meet a few. Do you really require Java experience or do you need a good coder who is willing to learn new things? Don’t ask for a specific type of leader, look for someone who can lead in any of many productive ways. Explicitly state that you value a diverse team. And beware of subtle stereotypes – words like best, rock star, action-oriented define a particular picture but may not represent what you’re really looking for.
When reviewing resumes, have HR take off names, cities, and years. Before you pick up a resume decide on your priorities – does experience or willingness to learn matter more for example? Look for people who fill gaps rather than trying to replicate people you already have. And remember, system 2 thinking is tiring so do this when you’re alert and can take the time to think about what you’re doing.
For the interviews, have a diverse group participate. Simply looking at picture of or talking about diverse people before starting interviews increases the chance you hire with diversity in mind. Don’t confuse either confidence or “geek cred” with competence. Keep an open mind about different ways of approaching problems – it’s the result that matters.
Many flowers make a beautiful bouquet – @IsisAnchalee
What is your personal pledge today?
Full slide deck is available at http://smallbitesofbigdata.com/archive/2015/10/26/moving-beyond-unconscious-bias-good-people-matter.aspx
“Always in motion is the future” – Yoda
On June 1 I will be moving into a new role on AzureCAT. I tried the small business consulting world with Neal Analytics and it just wasn’t a good fit for me and my passions. So here I go, on to new challenges at Microsoft! I’ll be making the world a better place with the help of Big Data.
And while I’m making changes, I’ll also be moving from Boise, ID to the Redmond, WA area. It’s new adventures all around for me. I’ll miss Boise – my friends, my political battles, the greenbelt and hiking trails, sitting on the patios downtown. And I’m also excited about all the new opportunities I’ll have in my new, blue state.
Bring it on world, I’m ready!
This year’s Boise Code Camp has an exciting new panel session: “Where are the Women in Technology?” We have a great lineup of women who will help us all understand why women in tech matter to your bottom line. The panel invites everyone of any gender to attend and learn more about how we can all help make our businesses more productive, our work culture more pleasant, and our employees and coworkers happier. The session is sponsored by “Girl Develop It! Boise”.
Saturday, March 21 at 140p at the BSU Special Events Center
How does it impact you and your business when women are underrepresented in your tech department? Women are interested, why aren’t they working in IT? Why is the number of women in IT decreasing? What can you personally do about it? Why should you care? We can all help make our businesses more productive, our work culture more pleasant, and our employees and coworkers happier. Sponsored by “Girl Develop It – Boise”.
We frequently hear how Idaho wants to be seen as a top tech destination. We want to attract new startups as well as existing businesses. Women are an untapped resource that can help make that happen. When women join boards and hold decision making positions in businesses, those businesses tend to outperform businesses with fewer women. Having a pipeline of women techies coming out of our local universities and a workforce with a high percentage of techie women can help attract high tech businesses. Tech businesses historically have a big focus on diverse workforces since over the years they’ve seen the benefits of having a multitude of perspectives when developing new products and services. Women are leading adopters of new products and services, it just makes sense to have women adding a female viewpoint to the decision making process as those products and services are chosen and built.
While tech businesses value women, they still see women exiting the field at much higher rates than men. Take game development as an example. Sexism, misogyny, and sexual harassment are worse in the areas of tech that traditionally are even more overwhelmingly male than most – like video game development. While nearly half of women who play games are women, many games are marketed with ads that emphasize women as sex objects and few games have female avatars to choose from. When female characters or avatars are present in a game they generally have a much more limited range of body types with an emphasis on highly sexualized looks. Again, that is usually attributed to the fact that most of the people who write and market games are men – they never even question what they are doing, it’s just accepted. There is an unproven assumption that women will play “boy games” but men won’t play “girl games”. Female gamers like panelist and IT veteran Jane Miceli are asked “are you really a girl?” when they play well and score high in an online game. When more women are hired into gaming companies/divisions the products change. More non-sexualized female characters appear. Games begin to have more layers to them, more ways of interacting. And then more people buy those games. That’s good for business.
When women are mentored, encouraged, and valued at work they help drive better business decisions.
Our panelists include three women representing a range of IT career stages. Kelsey Suyehira is a BSU senior with a math degree who has returned to school to get a degree in computer science. She is currently president of the Association for Computing Machinery Women’s group, a club that supports the recruitment and retention of women in computer science on campus. Suyehira is joined on the panel by Marianna Budnikova, a professional hacker at the locally owned MetaGeek. In addition to her passion for machine learning and genetic algorithms, which were the basis of her Master’s thesis, Budnikova loves to develop iOS and Android apps. Rounding out the techies on the panel is Jane Miceli. Miceli is a 15 year veteran of the IT industry and a SCRUM Master with a Master’s degree in computer science. She is an avid supporter of tech education and ongoing volunteering on the Idaho Technology Council’s Education Committee, Boise School District’s First Robotics Team 2122, the annual Boise Code Camp conference. Miceli is also managing director for Girls In Tech Boise. All three women show their leadership skills in the Boise chapter of Girl Develop It – a nonprofit that offers affordable technology classes to women through introductory classes such as Python, HTML, and Hadoop. These female tech leaders will talk about their personal experiences with being a woman in tech.
The panel is rounded out by two BSU gender studies lecturers. Carrie Semmelroth lectures on early and special education and gender topics at BSU. Semmelroth spends much of her time on data analysis in her department which gives her an interesting perspective on the intersection of gender and technology. Representative Melissa Wintrow is an educator, trainer, and leadership consultant who lectures on gender studies. Wintrow has been elected to represent District 19 in the Idaho legislature. Semmelroth and Wintrow will bring their perspectives as leaders and educators to help us understand how we can each have a positive impact at work.
Panel moderator Cindy Gross is a long time IT veteran with a passion for changing the way businesses do business, whether that’s through adoption of new technologies such as Hadoop or by increasing diversity in the workplace. Gross looks forward to a great hour of discussion on a range of Women in Tech topics that take us from a view of today’s reality to concrete, real-world actions that each of us can take to attract and retain more women in technology. The panel invites live tweeters to use the hashtag #BoiseWIT when discussing the session.
Hashtags: #STEM #WIT #PASSWIT #BoiseWIT @GirlDevelopIt #BoiseCodeCamp
Cross-posted (with slightly worse formatting) from https://befriendingdragons.com/2014/07/23/taking-flight-a-k-a-the-data-dragons-life-after-microsoft/
Life is a journey – we can choose to fly through it with our wings spread to catch and channel the winds, or we can let the winds pummel us to the ground. I choose to take flight, enjoy the journey, and land on my feet. Then take off again. Even when the flight happens because of an unexpected push from the nice, comfy nest, it’s possible to spread our wings and take off in the direction we choose. Especially when you’ve decided you’re a Data Dragon. Yes, that’s me. Cindy the Data Dragon.
What am I talking about? One of those life changing events that sneaks up on you sometimes.
Last Thursday I got a very unexpected call and I got to experience hearing the words “you’ve been laid off” for the first time ever. It was effective the same day, at least as far as job elimination. I am a Microsoft employee until September 15, my options are wide open after that.
I could choose to sit around and feel sorry for myself, ask countless “why me” and “why now” questions. What I did instead is remember that I am likely in a far better position than many of the other 13,000 people laid off the same day. And remember that now I don’t have to wonder and worry about the remaining Microsoft layoffs that are expected. And remember that this opens up many wonderful opportunities. And remember all the friends, co-workers, and customers who instantly offered support (thanks Sean, Terry, and Linda for the coffee followed by the much stronger drink and the rest of you for all the calls, emails, and IMs). And thank those same folks for the job leads, introductions, and recommendations on LinkedIn that immediately started pouring in – keep them coming! The Data Dragon chooses to concentrate on the good things, dive into making sense of things, and move on to new and better things. (Yes, Murshed, I again referred to myself in the 3rd person).
So now what?
I am going camping this week, I plan to make time for getting out of town again for a few days or weeks before the end of September (SLC ComicCon anyone?), and I am going to get my beautiful back yard back under control and add more colorful things growing in it. I am going to take my time finding the right Big Data job, not just any job.
Don’t stand in my way, the Data Dragon is taking flight and looking forward to all the wonderful things in my future!
Stupid cancer. It can be a devastating diagnosis – even if like me you’ve “won the cancer lottery” and ended up with a very treatable breast cancer. In my case I’m cured – a couple of small scars, a bit of a fading sunburn on one side, and memories. I can no longer say I don’t have tattoos; I have three tiny “prison blue” dots across my chest as a reminder of my radiation treatment. Stupid cancer.
As a professional data geek I see lots of hope for the future of cancer diagnosis, prevention, and treatment. New “Big Data” technologies promise to improve the accuracy of screenings, speed up genetic testing, and improve the lives of those with a cancer diagnosis. Stupid cancer.
As an amateur community organizer and activist I regularly fight for human rights – gay rights, women’s rights, the rights of those who are being denied the opportunity to live normal lives for no good reason. Cancer denies people the right to live normal lives – I’m working to fit fighting for cancer survivors into my activism. Stupid cancer.
My mom died from breast cancer in 1997. One of the big surprises of getting my own breast cancer diagnosis was my sense of relief. I hadn’t realized how much I had been waiting for stupid cancer to happen to me. Heredity may only account for 5-10% of breast cancers but I apparently still had it in my subconscious that my mom had it so I would get it. The non-stop awareness campaigns sometimes seem to just make us afraid without giving us something concrete to actually do. Stupid cancer.
This stupid cancer definitely gave me a new perspective on life. Tune in to hear me talk about being a cancer survivor on tonight’s Stupid Cancer show at 6p MST: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/stupidcancershow/2014/02/18/single-fathers-of-cancer
“Bereavement from cancer is the one of the most difficult parts of dealing with cancer. Join us for tonight’s bereavement roundtable, where we talk to Justin M. Yopp, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor, UNC School of Medicine, Dep’t of Psychiatry) and Matt Herynk co-founder of Young Cancer Spouses about the coping with the loss of a loved one due to cancer. Survivor Spotlight on blogger Cindy Gross.”
To listen live, visit http://stupidcancershow.org
To subscribe to the iTunes podcast, visit http://stupidcancer.org/itunes
To subscribe via iHeartRadio, visit http://stupidcancer.org/ihearttradio
Julie Strauss is a very accomplished and respected Senior PM at Microsoft. Her current role is technical assistant for Microsoft Data Platform Group (DPG) Corporate Vice President Quentin Clark. She has been the public face of Microsoft BI at conferences and helps deliver great technical content and data stories to the public. Julie loves to help others so she has shared some background on herself and some great business advice that could be helpful to others seeking to improve their success.
Julie saw a job posting for the support team in Microsoft Norway (at the time Great Plains) looking for an individual willing to learn the ins and outs of the Microsoft BI products. She was excited that the posting indicated a willingness to learn was more important than previous knowledge of the particular Microsoft product. This was how and why Julie came here – she loves the technology and the data driven parts of the business and finds them fascinating.
Julie has a notable role with a wide range of responsibilities. The majority of her time is spent working on strategic projects to meet the goals of the team at the DPG Vice President level. Projects can vary in nature and cover everything from exploratory and technical projects to organizational projects. She gets to work with many areas of the business and enjoys interactions across the org. In addition to these internal facing responsibilities Julie also manages a set of customer and partner engagements for the business. Overall this role has provided Julie with an amazing learning opportunity. She gets to widen her scope while maintaining her data and BI focus and also use her years of experience from responsibilities ranging through sales, marketing, support, engineering, program management and people management. She merged these experiences into a role as technical assistant that utilizes some aspects of all those areas. Throughout her career she has chosen new jobs that allowed her to stretch and grow with a significant amount of change. But throughout it all she kept one core thing the same – her focus on BI and data. This mix of old and new in each role helps her cultivate new skills while leveraging what she already knows and expanding her influence. Within Microsoft there are many opportunities, something Julie feels is unique in the corporate world, and we can all find a way to shine and grow here.
Julie has an extensive network she finds invaluable in navigating all that opportunity. Her network lets her know about new opportunities and the network members also influence decision makers. She emphasizes that your reputation is everything – your network carries that reputation to others. In a strong network everyone is contributing to each other’s success. She has a large network though at any given point in time she is only actively interacting with a few people.
In addition to a network of contacts, Julie has closer relationships with a smaller group of people as both a mentor and a mentee. When Julie made the decision to move from marketing to engineering she leveraged her close mentoring relationship with Donald Farmer. Donald knew Julie and her work ethic and was willing to take a chance on Julie’s ability to succeed even though on paper it wasn’t an obvious fit. She stresses the importance of having semi-formal mentoring relationships with people at various levels. She asks various mentors for advice with experiences, projects, and specific interactions. Julie contributes back as a mentor to others – this keeps her coaching skills active. Julie observed that while she doesn’t treat her mentees differently based on their gender they tend to bucket themselves. More often than not women ask how to handle a specific situation or how to become more efficient or appear more confident. On the other hand men are more likely to ask task oriented questions such as how to make a specific change or how to write a better spec. She enjoys helping with both types of questions. Some of her mentees and mentors are people she already knew and some are people she grew to know only after the mentor-mentee relationship started.
Over the years Julie has lived in Denmark, Norway, the UK, and the US. She is always looking for new challenges whether it’s how to succeed in a new country or job or taking on a demanding project. Whatever she does she is working hard and getting things done. Follow her advice – build your network, find a mentor or two, be clear on expectations, and always be true to who you are.
I want to thank Julie for sharing herself and her ideas with us – it can be tough to open up but Julie did a stellar job!